Recruitment Agencies Accused of Treating BAME Jobseekers Unfairly

Only a small minority of jobseekers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds looking for a new job to further their careers, feel that recruitment agencies treat people from their ethnic background fairly when putting them forward for roles.

Nearly three quarters of Bangladeshi (73 per cent) and of Caribbean (72 per cent) employees and more than two thirds of Pakistani respondents said that they had been treated unfairly when using a recruitment agency.

But criticisms are not just confined to agencies.  Once in a job, many BAME employees believe a glass ceiling operates which means they invariably need to leave their current employer if they want to progress their career.

The Breaking Down Barriers report released by Race for Opportunity, Business in the Community’s race diversity campaign based on a survey of over 1,500 full-time employees from eight ethnic groups within the UK, including white Britons, found levels of ambition vary between the different ethnic groups. African, Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani employees were the most ambitious, with African and Indian employees consistently topping the ambition scales.

This high level of ambition within the BAME workforce is matched in confidence, with seven out of ten ethnic minority employees certain about their next career move. Despite this confidence, nearly half of BAME employees feel that they have to leave their current employer in order to progress. In stark contrast, less than a third of white British workers felt that they had to do the same. This, the report says, has to be a serious concern for businesses that are failing to engage, retain and progress their employees on an equal basis.

Race for Opportunity also asked what the perceived barriers were to realising these ambitions. Nearly 60 per cent of Pakistani, 55 per cent of African and half of Chinese employees do not feel they are supported by their line manager. Additionally, there is inadequate provision for training, with ethnic minority respondents saying they had been on fewer than two training schemes in the last year.   Almost a third of Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani workers said they had not been on a training course at all in the last year, compared with white British workers who said they had been on more than two.

Race for Opportunity has three simple recommendations for employers to ensure that every individual in their employment is assessed on merit, not race: 

  1. Establish a system of mentoring and sponsorship: Urge those who currently hold leadership positions to take a more active role. 
  2. Meet the three basic demands of feeling valued, proper pay and adequate training.   
  3. Engage with the recruitment industry head on.  Regardless of whether these attitudes are conscious or unconscious, every individual must be assessed on merit, not race.
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